Jude Law struggles with the nice before going dark in emotional thriller ‘The Nest’

Jude Law stars with Carrie Coon in "The Nest."
(IFC Films)

“The Nest” isn’t a thriller. Unless you’re its protagonist.

“It’s a drama about a family,” says star Jude Law. “At its heart, it’s a love story. It’s sort of a parable of our times: Even though it’s set 30 years ago, it kind of sets up where we are and why we are where we are now. I think it looks really in a very interesting way at the burden of being the Man of the House in the old sense of the word and how that, at times, has affected judgment in the behavior of men.

“There’s also this dramatic Gothic, almost thriller sense to it; an impending sense that something bad is going to happen, which I know [writer-director Sean Durkin] was keen to sustain throughout. It’s like you’re going into something horrifying.”

The film doesn’t play as a thriller in the narrative sense, but in the emotional sense of inexorable doom from Rory’s perspective (“It’s the inner journey,” agrees Law). Set in the ‘80s, mostly in and around London, the film concerns a family of four (Rory’s wife, Allison, is played by Carrie Coon) relocating from America to Rory’s native England as the stock trader and financier pursues business opportunities with his old firm. Rory moves his clan into a massive manor house in the country, anticipating thunderous success that will either arrive and justify it all, or not materialize and their fortunes will crumble. The domestic drama is powered by the pressure constantly building on Rory to deliver, as he hides the truth of his desperation from his loving but increasingly frustrated wife.


Jude Law and Carrie Coon star in Sean Durkin’s “The Nest.”

I loved what I felt a real, honest study of a family without the drama of, say, a death or an affair or a divorce. It was almost like this was a pattern. I wondered, has this happened before? Is their behavior the very thing that keeps them together in a weird way?” says Law of reading the script by Durkin.

“I was particularly taken with Rory, although when I first read it, I found him highly unlikable. So the two of us worked quite hard to make him a little more seductive. It was important to me that Allison, his wife, wasn’t seen to be foolish to be with this guy. You didn’t see his full colors straightaway. You had to wait for the layers to peel away before you understood what his motives were.”

And what were those motives? Despite being set in the era that birthed the mantra “Greed is good,” Rory isn’t exactly rapacious. But it’s true, says Law, that how he appears to others is far more important to him than how he really is doing, inside.

“It was this sort of X-ray of him that fascinated me so much because on the one hand, you couldn’t accuse him of doing the wrong thing by his family. He wants them to go to the best schools, he wants them to live in this beautiful house, he wants a horse for his wife; He wants, he wants, he wants all these things.

“But all of that is surface. It’s all external, it’s objects, right? It’s belongings. And he’s broken in many ways because what he doesn’t realize is that it’s all gotta start from within.”


Law references a scene in which Rory visits his mother and we learn about some of the fuel feeding his fire:

“That tiny little moment where you understand that he’s come from a place — or something happened in his past that just left him feeling unloved, unrewarded. He lost touch, ultimately, with who he is and so he’s trying to re-create it. He’s trying to build it. Part of that was going to America and gaining success, or as he says, ‘I had a million pounds in the bank once. I thought it was going to keep coming and it just stopped.’

“You know, it’s terribly sad. To him, that was the pinnacle. That was when he thought he was Rory O’Hara, the great financial whiz kid. And, in fact, it was just a moment.”

The setting is significant — beyond mirroring parts of Durkin’s biography — especially in the context of what Rory believes he must do.

“For a father, in that slightly archaic, old sense of the word, wanting to be the provider, wanting to bring home the bacon, this challenge of wanting what’s better, what’s best, what’s bigger for my family … I pictured always that Rory came from very, very little and the kind of background where to be over-ambitious is to be ‘above your station,’ as they say in the U.K., and ‘too big for your boots.’

“So to put him in that time, when he sees all this possibility, and he also sees the fur coats and the watches and the phones and the right shoes and all of that stuff being seen as a reflection of success; it puts him in this dilemma.”


There was, however, the problem of making Rory sympathetic — at least to the guy playing him.

“I sat with Sean and ... I mentioned that, ‘Is the point that you hate this guy?’,” Law says, chuckling. “And Sean was like, “No! No, no no no!’

“And weirdly enough, that was a real moment for me because I suddenly pictured Robert Redford playing him. I was like, ‘Oh, he’s gotta be dashing and quite lovable.’ And then you realize slowly, ‘Holy crap, this guy’s got major issues!’

“That suddenly became the challenge and also became the aim. I thought, ‘OK, how do I start out by seeming to be someone absolutely with their wits about them and something special and attractive, and slowly reveal this kind of vacuum in a way?’